Arlene Foster claims Boris Johnson gave into pressure to agree NI Protocol

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Northern Ireland’s former first minister Arlene Foster has claimed Boris Johnson gave into pressure to accept the Northern Ireland Protocol “as proposed” by the Irish Government.

Mrs Foster also criticised Irish Government ministers Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney for their handling of the Brexit process, blaming their “aggressive nationalism” on the growth of Sinn Fein in the Republic.

The UK and EU have brought forward proposals in a bid to resolve the dispute over the protocol.

The mechanism is part of the Brexit divorce deal negotiated by the UK Government and signed by Mr Johnson aimed at avoiding a hard border with Ireland.

British Irish Council summit
Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney were criticised for their handling of the Brexit process (Liam McBurney/PA)

The terms effectively kept Northern Ireland in the single market, creating a border down the Irish Sea between Great Britain and the fourth nation of the UK.

Mrs Foster believes the protocol played a big role in her ousting as DUP leader earlier this year.

“We stood against this type of arrangement and were successful at resisting this type of outcome so long as we held the balance of power at Westminster,” Mrs Foster told the Sunday Times newspaper.

“But, unfortunately, the moment the prime minister had a majority he made a decision to get Brexit done and deal with the fallout later.

“Of course it is hugely disappointing that Boris, under pressure, gave into the protocol as proposed by Leo Varadkar, and all that it has brought.

“When it came into being in January (2020), I and colleagues tried to deal with the problems as they arose but it soon became clear this wasn’t possible and fundamental change was needed.

“There is no doubt the implementation of the protocol was hugely damaging to my time as leader.

“I couldn’t have done any more to alert the Prime Minister to the problems that would arise, but when you are the DUP leader you are blamed regardless.”

Mrs Foster also said the relationship with the Government in Dublin has never “been at such a low ebb”, particularly with Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Coveney and Mr Varadkar.

“They refuse to deal with the practical reality of the principle of consent, ie. that Northern Ireland is a full member of the UK,” Mrs Foster added.

“They have used their position to undermine the constitutional position here.

Covid testing in schools
Arlene Foster blamed Leo Varadkar’s “aggressive nationalism” on the growth of Sinn Fein in the Republic of Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I can only put their aggressive nationalism down to the growth of Sinn Fein in the Republic.”

Since leaving politics earlier this year, Mrs Foster has been carving out a career in the media, including as a contributor on GB News, and speaking out against abuse on social media

She told the newspaper that physical threats and verbal abuse is part of the price as part of being in politics.

“You are videoed doing your shopping in Tesco, people must be very bored, and I was almost forced to do online shopping all the time as every trip became a Snapchat video for someone,” the former DUP leader added.

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